If the $8.4 million raised yesterday by geo-social network Gowalla tells us anything it is that geo is red hot right right now. The trickle of geo apps is already turning into a flood. The latest example is Mobcast, an iPhone app (iTunes link) which adds lets you broadcast your location to your existing Facebook friends.
Mobcast is like a combination of Foursquare and Google Latitude. Except you use your Facebook ID to sign in and there are no check-ins. You simply select which friends you want to “mobcast” to, and then they see your updates on a map. Why join a new geo-social network when you can just tap into Facebook?
But Mobcast does have its flaws. Like Google Latitude, it constantly broadcasts your location to your chosen friends or subset of friends. But the app must reman open to do that since you can’t run the app in the background (Latitude’s iPhone app shares the same problem). Also, the locations are shown on a map, but Mobcast doesn’t match the locations to a directory of known businesses or points of interest like Foursquare or Gowalla try to do. Although you can include that information in your update if you want.
Until Facebook decides to release its own geo-location support (like Twitter has already), Mobcast is a close approximation of what might very well one day become a feature of all mobile Facebook apps, including the company’s own. But the prospect of competing with Facebook doesn’t bother the developers Jeff Schnitzer and Nikolai Sander. “This isn’t some big VC-backed play hoping to take over the world,” says Schnitzer. “We’re two guys who spent a month and a half building what Facebook should have built a long time ago.”
On the iPhone, you can see your friends’ location on a map and when they send out a new geo-update, you get a notification as well (presuming you both have Mobcast). Using Facebook’s friend list, you can determine who can see your location and who cannot, and you can always delete your location history or go into stealth mode for those private rendezvous.